Leigh Turner

Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Ukraine

9th September 2011

Shoah by Bullets

What is a French Catholic priest doing uncovering mass graves from the shootings of Jews, gypsies and others in Ukraine in the years 1941-1944?

It’s a question which Father Patrick Desbois asks at the opening of the exhibition “Shoah by Bullets: Mass Shootings of Jews in Ukraine 1941-1944” at the Ukrainian House in the centre of Kyiv on 8 September.  The answer, Father Desbois says, is that his grandfather was deported in 1942 to a camp in what is now western Ukraine near Lviv.  His grandfather told him that, while conditions in the camp were awful, those outside were far worse.

Now Father Desbois leads an organisation working closely with Jewish counterparts which makes twelve visits a year to Ukraine, going from village to village asking people whether they saw mass shootings and, if so, what they saw.  The result has been the uncovering of mass graves of more than one million Jews and 48 extermination sites for gypsies on Ukrainian territory.

At the opening ceremony, Father Desbois and Eric de Rothschild, President of Memorial de la Shoah, underline that their work is not about pointing fingers but about helping to ensure, through education and testimony that this can never happen again.  It is about putting a name, a face and a life to individual victims.  It is about teaching people, including through schools projects in Ukraine, not to run with the crowd when the crowd is doing the wrong thing.  It is, as Stephen Smith of the Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education says, an opportunity not to think about death but to think about life.

The exhibition is on at the House of Ukraine, on European Square in centre of Kyiv from 8 September to 3 October.

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About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.

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